Summer’s Dizzying Height

For some people, in other places, the critical deadline to meet each year is April 15, which has something to do with taxes. For many people on the Island, it’s the deadline for entering the annual Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair, which has everything to do with fun. Paperwork for all fair entries is due by Monday at 5 p.m. Those otherwise sweet fair workers can be every bit as strict as the Internal Revenue Service, so don’t test them by tripping in on Tuesday.

Islanders waiting for a long run of sunny weather may find it hard to believe that we’ve reached the summer’s peak week of events already. For many the week coming up is the week which signals the season’s end. For all, however, children and adults, newcomers and oldtimers alike, it is the week that enchants.

First is Grand Illumination night. On Wednesday, Bob Cleasby, program director of the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, will be inside the Tabernacle, doubtless in his signature red pants, readying for the rousing weekly community sing he leads. By sunset, picnicking parents will watch as the lights dim over the packed open-air space, already so beautifully (if not completely) restored. Glow sticks will keep their starry-eyed children safe as the grounds too go dark. And then a single, special lamplighter will seemingly set the entire village aglow. Fairy tale cottages grounded in Island history will shine light through lanterns that have passed from far-flung ports in China, Japan and Hawaii and passed through the generations. It is hands-down the least cynical thing to happen all year.

Thursday is day one of the fair. By then hundreds of volunteers will have displayed thousands of entries in a stupefying array of the Island’s creativity and industry. It’s impossible not to be amazed by the sheer volume of paintings and Island-grown produce, artful furniture and flower arrangements, bracelets and berry pies. The competition ranges from friendly to fierce, and judging is a job for the hardy. Outside the hall, too, from the fried dough to the skillet throw, the fair is about community and keeping traditions alive.

Some will skip the fair on Friday night because it’s that final cornerstone of summer’s peak week, the Oak Bluffs fireworks. Across Ocean Park the ooohs and ahhhs rise from picnic blankets, a sigh of summer as it sparkles all around us, all together.